CORONAVIRUS

Spanish cities of Seville, Granada and Córdoba cancel Easter processions in bid to slow coronavirus infections

The latest information supplied by the central Health Ministry puts the number of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 at 5,700, with at least 136 deaths from the Covid-19 disease

Several people walk through the usually crowded Puerta del Sol in central Madrid on March 14 after regional authorities ordered all stores in the region to be closed.
Several people walk through the usually crowded Puerta del Sol in central Madrid on March 14 after regional authorities ordered all stores in the region to be closed.JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

The Andalusian cities of Seville, Granada and Córdoba announced on Saturday that they would be canceling their world-famous Easter processions, as measures were stepped up across Spain in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Later today, the Spanish Cabinet is due to officially implement a state of alarm, which will give the central government more powers to combat the effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Alicante, Orihuela, Valladolid and Zamora said on Friday that their processions would not be going ahead. The cities of Cuenca, Murcia, Cartagena and Lorca also canceled their Easter celebrations on Saturday. The measures will be a blow not just for the local populations, for whom the religious traditions are hugely important, but also for tourism receipts, given the appeal the processions have for visitors.

On Friday morning, according to data from the Health Ministry, 260 intensive care unit (ICU) beds of a nationwide total of 4,627 were occupied by a patient with the coronavirus, Isabel Valdés reports. Of these, 180 were in Madrid, which counts on 641 UCI beds across the region, which is 28% of the national total. ICUs are key to the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, given that they are needed to treat the most serious cases and are where bottlenecks of patients are most likely to occur within the Spanish health system. The Madrid regional government announced special measures on Friday evening in a bid to raise the number of ICU beds available to a thousand.

The widespread closures of businesses such as cinemas and theaters across Spain is expected to cost the culture sector €3 billion in a month

Also on Saturday, the southeastern region of Murcia joined Madrid, Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria by ordering all cinemas, nightclubs, restaurants, bars and stores to close, apart from those selling foodstuffs and essential items.

The widespread closures of businesses such as cinemas and theaters across Spain is expected to cost the culture sector €3 billion in a month, Peio H. Riaño reports. Sources from the sector called the situation “tragic and dramatic,” and “chaos.”

The regional 112 emergency services line denounced the fact that many people had chosen to make a day trip to the Sierra mountains

The regional government in Andalusia announced that it is preparing to impose isolation measures in coastal municipalities in order to contain the coronavirus. On Saturday morning, Marbella City Hall said via Twitter that it was closing its beaches, following advice from the Andalusian regional government. Later in the day, City Hall in nearby Málaga took the same measures, calling on people to stay at home and away from the beaches.

Residents of other parts of Spain have been complaining of the arrival of Madrid locals to their vacation residences, when official recommendations from the government have called on Madrileños to stay at home in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Despite these recommendations that residents of the Madrid region – which has been the worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak so far – stay at home, the regional 112 emergency services line denounced the fact that many people had chosen to make a day trip to the Sierra mountains. In a tweet shared by 112 Comunidad Madrid, dozens of cars were visible parked in the area of La Pedriza, with forest rangers looking on. “Not like this Madrid, not like this,” the message read, accompanied by a request for people to leave the area. By Saturday afternoon, the Madrid regional authorities opted to close all of these public recreation areas in the Sierra mountains.

The same Twitter account also recommended on Saturday that people respect a distance of one meter while in public, and take particular care in supermarkets, which were seeing large crowds of panic-buying shoppers given the increasingly drastic measures being taken by the authorities in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

At around lunchtime on Saturday, Madrid City Hall announced that it would be closes all parks and gardens in the city from 4pm onwards, “given the crowds of people” that were congregating in such public spaces, and “in spite of all warnings” from the authorities. The city of Madrid was enjoying a particularly good day of weather on Saturday, which had no doubt encouraged members of the public out onto the streets.

The main train station in the capital, however, was practically deserted on Saturday morning, Manuel Viejo reports. Stores inside Atocha station were closed, while staff were seen wearing protective face masks. Elsewhere, the usually bustling central Puerta del Sol square was empty on Saturday morning, with many of the establishments lining the area closed.

Speaking to EL PAÍS, Madrid Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida said that the closure of Madrid was “closer than we thought in terms of mobility restrictions. Fundamentally, it is going to depend on whether the spike in infections that is expected for the next three or four days comes to pass, or whether we see a scenario above that average. In that case, it will of course be necessary to adopt these restrictive measures for mobility.”

English version by Simon Hunter.

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